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ACT English-How to Spot Conjunctions

The ACT English Test consists of several short essays with underlined sections. You’ll have to determine whether there is a grammatical error in each underlined portion, and select the best answer choice. You won’t need to identify a specific word as a “conjunction,” but if you know what they are, you’ll better be able to spot errors such as sentence fragments and run-ons.


Coordinating Conjunctions

One type of conjunction is a coordinating conjunction – these conjunctions help link ideas together and describe how two clauses relate to one another. To remember them, use the FANBOYS mnemonic device! FANBOYS stands for: For – And – Nor – But – Or – Yet- So!  Let’s look at a sample ACT question involving a coordinating conjunction:

The Roman Senate was dominated by the patricians, or the descendants of the original senators from the time of Romulus.

  2. nor
  3. and
  4. for

The correct answer is (A). Here the second clause (“the descendants…”) explains what the word “patricians” means, so we need a conjunction that helps describe that relationship. “Nor” would require the word “neither” or “not” in front of the word “by.” That’s because “nor” and “neither” make up a two-part idiom (or expression) when you’re giving two negative attributes to a subject. For example: Coffee is not very healthy, nor does it taste very good.

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“And” makes it sound like “patricians” and “descendants” are different groups of people. “For” is usually used to offer an explanation, but that is not the meaning of this sentence.

Conjunctions are also used right before the last item in a list (notice how a comma is used BEFORE the conjunction): My favorite things to do at camp are hiking, swimming, and sailing.


Subordinating Conjunctions

There are also conjunctions called subordinating conjunctions. Examples include: because, after, although, before, until, when, etc.

These are used when a sentence has two independent clauses, but one is clearly most important than the other. Using a subordinating conjunction creates a clearer relationship between the two clauses. Don’t worry if this is hard to imagine. On ACT Test Day, you’ll know which conjunction is correct because only one will make logical sense for the structure of the sentence. Let’s look at a few examples:

Because I had a high fever, I took some cold medicine.

I took my vacation to Paris after I found out about my bonus check.

Need more help with Conjunctions? Check out this guide from Grammar Monster!


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